A New Blog for 2021

In my current role, I do a lot of interviewing and hiring. A few months ago, a candidate asked me a great question that I immediately thought, "oh, this would make a good blog post." The problem was that the question and subsequent answer didn't fit any of the platforms I have access to. My old site, codeaperture.io, focused on step-by-step guides and thoughts on software engineering. It definitely wasn't appropriate for the professional platforms I have written on, the Octopus Deploy Blog or Redgate's Blog. I had been thinking about starting a new blog for a little while, and that question finally gave me the kick I needed. But, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. I wanted to learn from my previous mistakes on other sites like codeaperture.io. After a few false starts, I have finally launched my new site. Welcome!

Picking a domain

Before pulling the trigger on a new site, I had some decisions to make about my pre-existing blog codeaperture.io. Should I re-purpose that blog? If I don't, should I port old articles over to my new site?

I went back and forth quite a bit, and I finally decided; it was time to cut the cord on my old site. Downgrade it to the cheapest possible hosting plan, and put it in maintenance mode.

Over time I started to hate the name of my old site. It highlighted a recurring problem I've had for my personal sites, coming up with a really clever title. Over the years, I have owned the following domains.

  • thereccyclist.com (first blog!)
  • codeaperture.io
  • bwalk2895.com (did nothing with this)
  • chainstaydev.com (did nothing with this)

I almost went down the same path with this site. I had a few clever names lined up, the one I was really considering was Hatchback Cycling. After mulling it over a few days, I knew I'd be back to where I started anytime I came up with a clever name. I had to spend way too much time explaining it to my friends and family.

  • Me: I started a new site called codeaperture.io!
  • Partner: Cool, why did you call it that?
  • Me: Because I wanted a site where I could write about what I think are best practices in software development!
  • Partner: That explains the code part...
  • Me: Ah, yes, aperture is a photography term; it refers to how big the opening is on a camera when taking a picture.
  • Partner: So, what does that have to do with software development?
  • Me: Well, my tag line is "Focusing a spotlight on quality software development practices."
  • Partner: That still doesn't explain the aperture part; what does aperture have to do with focusing

I then looked to some of the big names in tech who have their own site, people like John Papa, Dave Farley, Scott Hanselman, Kendra Little, etc. All of their sites had their name in the domain. That is much easier to explain.

  • Me: I started a new site called bobjwalker.com!
  • Partner: Cool!

My only problem was bobwalker.com was already taken. Believe it or not, there are a few Bob Walkers out there in the world. Forget about walker.com. I was surprised that bobwalker.net was available (I now own it), but my concern was not everyone would remember to type in .net instead of .com. I had just changed my GitHub user name to BobJWalker, so why not double down on that and buy the domain?

No Data Migration

Over time, there will be quite a bit of overlap between codeaperture.io. Despite that, I decided not to migrate my old articles over. To be honest, it felt like a chore. Not only would I have to migrate the data, but I'd also have to screw around with 503 permanent redirects.

And to be honest, in looking at some of the older articles, I see all kinds of errors or little things I want to clean up. So much so, I have to fight the urge to re-write a big chunk of them. I'm still fighting that urge. It boils down to having 4-5 years' worth of extra writing experience under my belt. But...I didn't want to spend my limited free time working on old articles instead of writing new articles.

It is much easier to leave the old site as is. It's only $9 / month to host it, so screw it, why not?

Staying on Ghost.org

The developer in me very much wanted me to build a blog engine. Looking back on it, I wish I ignored that. That decision set me back a few months.

I did a lot of research into what blog engines were out there. I set up a few local proofs of concepts. One had a lot of promise; it used GatsbyJS and could generate a static site I could host in Azure Static Websites. I was very close to pulling the trigger on using GatsbyJS, but it was a lot of little things that stopped me.

GatsbyJS is a great framework; the limitations were all related to building a custom own blog engine. Any site I made public had to have:

  • RSS Support
  • Email Subscriptions
  • Analytics
  • Image storage
  • Keeping up to date with the latest NodeJS packages
  • Debugging when something goes wrong
  • Monitoring tool to measure for outages

I kept falling farther and farther behind from my goal. I wanted to start generating the content, but my estimates put that at two months out. Once I put it out in the wild, I would have ongoing maintenance costs.

While running headfirst into those problems, I upgraded my old site, codeaperture.io, to the latest Ghost version. I have been using Ghost.org since 2016 to host the site. The platform certainly had its ups and downs. Back then, my biggest pet peeve was the markdown preview engine couldn't handle anything more than a thousand words before it started pegging my CPU to 100%.

I started poking around at what the new version of Ghost offered. The more time I spent on the latest version, the more I liked it. All the features could be found in the $30/month plan. I spun up a new site on Ghost.org, configured Cloudflare (I'm on the free plan), and away I went. With a few hours of work, I have a fast and reliable platform for a minimal cost outlay.

Wrapping Up

I am very pumped for my new site, and I am excited to see where it takes me. I have a whole host of ideas for topics, and I hope I have the time to put out one to two articles a month. I've already posted my first article in the series Mistakes from my career. In that series, I plan on writing about all the various mistakes I've made since joining the professional workforce in 2004. I will also write a bit about my writing process, the tools I prefer for writing, and touching on a host of other topics. I hope you enjoy it!

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